- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The finfish, shrimp and oyster fishery, worth an estimated $700 million annually, suffered a fatal blow after Hurricane Katrina entered the Gulf of Mexico and wreaked havoc in Mississippi and Louisiana.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez last week announced a formal determination of a “fishery failure” in the Gulf because of the devastation following the hurricane. The phrase that a fishery failure occurred is government-speak that means the fishing is dead from Pensacola, Fla., to the Texas border.

There now is a virtual fishery shutdown in the affected states because of major flooding, damage to fishing boats and fishing ports, waterways clogged with debris and closed processing facilities. It didn’t even mention the effluent from flooded communities, particularly the New Orleans disaster. Imagine all that rotten, bacteria-laden water and where it will end up: Yes, in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although the full extent of the damage to Gulf seafood industries is not yet known, fishing in the region has stopped.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will work with the states to assess damage to 15 major fishing ports and 177 seafood processing facilities in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Based on preliminary estimates, there are 432 federally permitted fishing vessels in Alabama; 3,738 in Florida; 1,033 in Louisiana, and 351 in Mississippi.

Federal assistance to the affected commercial fishermen and processors will be made available. NOAA didn’t say whether out-of-work recreational charter boat captains and fishing guides come under federal assistance guidelines, but it is believed that they will.

Duck group helps after storm — On the subject of Hurricane Katrina, international conservation and hunter group Ducks Unlimited has pledged $15 million to help restore storm-damaged coastal wetlands in Louisiana.

“Ducks Unlimited will work with partner conservation organizations, federal conservation agencies and the state of Louisiana to protect and restore 52,000 acres along the Louisiana coast by 2008,” said Ducks Unlimited executive vice president Don Young.

The waterfowl conservation group is acutely aware that the human loss and suffering was, and still is, staggering, but to get people’s lives back to normal as quickly as possible requires not only that services and homes be restored and rebuilt, but also that the critical coastal wetlands that help protect those homes and people be restored. Wetlands restoration is a Ducks Unlimited specialty.

Intersex fish studied in Potomac — Biologists with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are investigating the effects of organic pollutants on hormone activity in fish in the Potomac River watershed. Government biologists suspect that these pollutants may be causing male fish to have immature female eggs.

Intersex fish may occur as a result of chemicals in the water that mimic or antagonize hormone levels. Known as endocrine disruptors, these substances can interfere with an organism’s normal hormone functions. Endocrine disruption, says the Fish & Wildlife Service, has the potential to compromise proper development, leading to reproductive, behavioral, immune system and neurological problems, as well as the development of cancer.

Disruptor compounds can enter a waterway from sewage outfalls, industrial and municipal pollution, and agricultural runoff. Biologists will measure concentrations of endocrine disruptor chemicals in the water and use electro-shock equipment to find intersex fish.

The Service will work with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the D.C. Department of Health. This partnership will collect water samples and capture largemouth and smallmouth bass at various sites in the Potomac River watershed, including the Monocacy River and Conococheague Creek in Washington County, as well as the Potomac here in the District.

EVENTS

Junior shooting program — The St. Charles Sportsman’s Club in Waldorf is inviting youngsters to join. The shooters meet at noon on the first Sunday of every month. A .22 rifle and ammunition is provided for the juniors. All shooting takes place under the supervision of qualified instructors. Information: Junior Rifle chairman Rob Fike, 301/843-8199, Sportsman’s Club president Russ Levin, 301/843-8622, [email protected]; stcharlessc.com/map.html.

Fishing in Patagonia — Today, 7:15 p.m., at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Service Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane. The National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited program features internationally renowned Patagonian fishing guide Ramon Aranguren. He is a former president of Trout Unlimited/Argentina, and he’s that country’s national fly-casting champion with a cast of 119.7 feet. Information: ncc-tu.org or 202/363-0437.

Fishing the Potomac’s North Branch — Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m., at Schweinhaut Senior Center, Silver Spring. Retired Western Regional Fisheries manager Ken Pavol will talk about how and where to fish the remote North Branch of the Potomac for the Potomac-Patuxent chapter of Trout Unlimited. The program is free. Information: pptu.org or 301/652-3848.

Outer Banks surf fishing school — Oct. 20-23, Joe Malat and Mac Currin’s class is limited to 25. It costs $275 a person and includes 1 days of fishing, one day of classroom instruction, all needed materials, an autographed copy of Malat’s book on surf fishing, on the beach instruction and lots of door prizes. Information: Joe Malat, 252/441-4767, [email protected]; or Mac Currin, 919/881-0049, [email protected]

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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